By Jeffery Armstrong
It would've been nice if former Forest Park football players Hines Ward and Tyrone Baisden could've suited up for their old team Friday night.
If those guys played, the young Panthers might have had a chance during their homecoming game, which they lost to the Mt. Zion Bulldogs 45-0 in Region 5-AAAA West action at Tara Stadium.
Mt. Zion improves to 6-1 (2-0 in the region) while Forest Park, which only has nine seniors on the roster, drops to 0-7, 0-2 in region play. The Panthers suffered their fifth shutout of the season while Mt. Zion scored 45 points for the second consecutive week.
Mt. Zion dominated this game in every facet from start to finish. The Bulldogs outgained the Panthers 407-44, held Forest Park to only two first downs (one by penalty) and scored touchdowns on six of their eight possessions. The only thing Mt. Zion didn't do well was convert extra points. Bulldogs kicker Dorian Cruz missed four point-after attempts.
The longest play from scrimmage for Forest Park was a 10-yard run from senior running back Brion Folarin in the second quarter. Folarin finished the game with 54 yards rushing on 14 carries. Panthers junior punter Alfonso Grande did well on special teams, booming several punts down field that Mt. Zion had to fair catch.
"We just had to stay focused and not play to their level," said Mt. Zion running back Rashad Cunningham. "We just wanted to take care of business and get coach [Jackie] Green closer to his 100th victory."
If the Bulldogs keep playing this well, Green should get his milestone victory and more. Mt. Zion fullback Aubrey Dorsey (16 carries, 61 yards in first-half play) ran for two 6-yard touchdowns in the first quarter for a 13-0 lead. Derek Slaughter (eight carries, 103 yards) scored from 10-yards out and Jamaal Clark (six carries, 58 yards) ran it in from the five for a 26-0 lead in the waning minutes of the second quarter.
Mt. Zion got an improbable touchdown at the end of the first half. The Panthers tried a 56-yard field goal seconds before halftime, but it was blocked by Slaughter and recovered by Martin Ward, who returned it 48 yards for the TD and a 33-0 halftime lead.
"Ward is a freshman and he's been really playing well for us. He's made some big plays," said Green. "Now we have to concentrate on Cedar Grove next week. If we win that game, we should qualify for the playoffs."
Quintilus Snow and Ward scored the final two touchdowns for Mt. Zion in the third quarter. Snow's TD was a 59-yarder on the first play of the period.